The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 11/18/2016
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 18, 2016
Guest: Gregory Meeks; Gregory Meeks; Julian Epstein; Jeremy Bash; Charlie
Pierce; Karine Jean-Pierre; Micah Sifry; Zeynep Tufekci
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight. We will see you
again on Monday. Now it`s time for “the Last Word.” Ari Melber sitting in
for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. We will let you know when
we need the tape.
MADDOW: Indeed. I have got it for you, my friend. Thanks.
MELBER: Thank you. And have a great weekend.
Candidate Donald Trump says he never settles and he always wins in court.
But he didn`t win today. President-elect Trump is (INAUDIBLE) tonight
about making presidential appointments as well. And the most recent three
choices are being rightly scrutinized for their positions on race,
religion, Iran and Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Congratulations to my
colleague and good friend Jeff Sessions.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great man.
CRUZ: Who is going to make an extraordinary attorney general.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole thing is terrifying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sessions is throwback to a shameful era.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was not good enough to be a federal judge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is I believe a disgrace to the justice department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How, then, is he good enough to be attorney general.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeff Sessions is one of the, I think, staller
conservative in senate. He`s also been a loyal ally to Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crime is rising, and the president, he blames the
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For too long, we have been
blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must restore law and order.
TRUMP: Jeff Sessions is such an amazing man.
MELBER: Donald Trump nominated three people to major posts today. And
tonight he tweeted that he is working all weekend in choosing the great men
and women who will be helping to make America great again.
The three picks are lieutenant general Mike Flynn for national security
advisor, Congressman Mike Pompeo to run the CIA and, yes, Alabama senator
Jeff Sessions for attorney general.
The session picks is easily, this pick is easily the most telling. And
that is because while every other cabinet position may simply reflect the
president`s views, the attorney general is far more than that. It is the
one position that must be non-partisan and requires the vow that its
occupant will protect the rights of all Americans. Other members of the
president`s cabinet can talk about changing the laws. The attorney general
enforces them. Not just the ones he likes but all of them. And legal
experts today as well as civil rights activists are saying that means if
Sessions is confirmed he would face some very stark choices.
Take the voting rights act. When the Supreme Court invalidated part of
that law in 2013, Sessions said it was good news. As attorney general,
Sessions would have to choose between that ideological position and his
obligation to enforce other parts of the voting rights act and civil rights
Or take immigration, the political issue that first brought Sessions and
Trump together. The Trump administration has every right to ask Congress
to change immigration policy. As a politician, we know Sessions has
opposed most immigration reform proposals and fought guest worker and visas
options for many immigrants. But as the nation`s leading law enforcement
officer, Sessions would have to apply the current immigration laws
regardless of his political views, that includes overseeing asylum and
refugee programs protecting human rights and due process programs for all
people even including, yes, non-citizens.
Or take political corruption. The attorney general oversees the DOJ`s
public integrity section which prosecutes government corruption without
regard to party or personal loyalty. For a Trump transition team that`s
already floating trial balloons about evading federal nepotism laws,
Sessions would have to choose between being a loyal political friend or
being a non-partisan prosecutor who holds officials accountable even if
there are officials he endorsed like Donald Trump or Donald trump`s family
These choices are tests. The first round comes in a Senate Judiciary
Committee which vets every federal judge and prosecutor. As you may have
heard by now, the last time Sessions faced that test as a judicial nominee,
he didn`t pass.
Now, here`s what he said then in 1986 after the committee voted down his
nomination based in concerns over his record and statements about race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I am extremely disappointed to not have
the opportunity to serve my country as United States district judge for the
southern district of Alabama. I believe that I was qualified for that
position. And I am sorry that the Senate Judiciary Committee did not see
fit to find me qualified for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Here we are, 30 years later from that moment, and Jeff Sessions
has the opportunity to serve again. The choices he makes and publicly
pledges to honor may determine his fate.
Joining me now to discuss, Democratic congressman Gregory Meeks from New
York, also a member of the congressional black caucus. And Maria Teresa
Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, also an MSNBC contributor.
Congressman, let me start with you. You look at some of those tests and
choices he has to make. Do you think he has proven thus far that he would
land on the right side of those choices?
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: No, absolutely. Look at every decision
he`s made as a senator. When you look at the Shelby v. Holder case, which
have to deal with voting rights which helps suppress voters, particularly
in his state of Alabama and throughout the south. He is wrong on that.
You look at where he was on citizens united that really put all this money
into politics. He has been wrong on that. So don`t have to – someone was
talking about, well, that`s 30 years ago, you don`t have to go back 30
years with this guy. You can look at the last two, three, four years and
what his opinions have been.
But it doesn`t surprise me, I got to say, because we know that Donald
Trump, when he talked about taking our country back again. We see where he
is taking it back to. Back to the confederacy or back to the times where
folks didn`t have voting rights and there was times when there was Jim
So I am really concerned that the Electoral College elected this guy
president, but we have got to make sure that we are lining up and holding
him accountable, the president-elect for everything that he does.
MELBER: Right. You mentioned Shelby v. Holder, this voting rights case.
This is a job where you were also sworn to uphold the civil rights
protection whether you like them or not. Here`s what NAACP president
Cornell Brooke said to our Chris Matthews today about Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: What we see here is an
administration in its early days, signaling that it is hostile toward or
indifferent to the civil rights agenda of the country. And so the question
is, if he was not good enough to be a federal judge, interpreting the law,
how, then, is he good enough to be attorney general, actually enforcing the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you view this pick as a clear sign of hostility from the Trump
administration on civil rights?
MEEKS: Well, absolutely. I mean, – but that was clear to me that he
would do that, even during the campaign. You know, some are saying now
because he has tried to stay out of the public or talk differently when he
around the rhetoric, but just look at who he is and look who he has been,
you know. I have been here in New York when he went after those five
teenagers. And now, even when they were exonerated, apologized of anything
in that nature.
So we know who he is, and so that`s why I`m not shocked. I mean, Mitt
Romney may not be calling him the con man and everything else before, but
he was then. And guess what, that was just four months ago. So he is now.
And so you look at Bannon. You look at now, Flynn and then you look at
Sessions. The evidence is on the table.
MELBER: Yes, Maria, when you look at Sessions, here is “the Washington
Post” from that infamous confirmation that he failed to get. The quote of
him basically talking about the Ku Klux Klan, and he said quote “I used to
think they were OK, until learning that some were pot smokers. That`s
according to the sworn statement by civil rights attorneys who work
directly with him.” It is really a clear sign that either the Trump folks
either welcome this fight or don`t care that they would have to have it,
given that he has gone through this crucible once before over these issues.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and that - this is the thing.
The attorney general is also supposed to making sure not only by abiding
the laws of the land, but also ensuring that the most vulnerable are
protected. That is one of the areas that they should be basing up and
And Jeff Sessions has voted against the voting rights act. He has
basically voted against the violence against women. He has been said
derogatory statements against immigrants and Latinos. The list goes on.
So it`s very difficult for one to say once he becomes the attorney general
he is going to be the attorney general for all Americans. This is just
another long list of Trump basically saying, Trump, when you say that you
basically were elected to talk about economic issues, the fact that he is
looking at identifying Bannon as someone as a senior adviser, that he
brings on Sessions, that he is looking at Flynn, it`s really lard hard to
swallow that he is not leading that necessarily an economic agenda but
maybe one that is based on race. And that is very difficult, again,
because when he enters the oval office, Trump has to be the president for
all Americans, but he is not sending those right signals right now.
MELBER: Right. And Trump`s Kellyanne Conway pushed back on all this, her
argument basically being that Sessions, prior to being a Republican
politician has a record her as a prosecutor and as the head of the just
department he would be lead prosecutor. So there is a record here. Here
she was on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR/GOP POLLSTER: In the case
of Jeff Sessions and the department of justice, I think it`s been a very
politicized department of late. Hopefully he can bring it back to the
calibration where it should be. He has been a well-respected federal
prosecutor 15 years. Obviously, United States senator from Alabama for
about 20 years. U.S. attorney I believe from Alabama. So this is a man
who spent his life in legislation and law enforcement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Maria, what do you make of this sort of rhetorical jujitsu where
it is Republicans who have been putting the pressure on saying lock her up
and trying to say when they don`t like the results of the FBIs inquiries
even when led by a registered Republican? They want to change it through
political pressure. And then the words there from Kellyanne Conway,
something sort out of a probed, the reversal. She says no, now is the DOJ
is politicizing and he is actually one who is going to fix that.
KUMAR: Right. And he is going to be the law and order candidate. I can
tell you that when - we need of hear law and order, it sends shivers down
people`s spines because all of the sudden you get flash back of these ideas
of stop and frisk which a lot are of folks have not denounced within the
Trump administration including Trump himself.
So it really, again, makes you pause and say who is he going to be the
attorney general for? And instead of protecting the most vulnerable, is he
going to basically make sure that he is doing surgical precision when it
comes to communities of color.
MELBER: And I want to ask the congressman. You said you know Donald Trump
from New York. You also know Chuck Schumer from New York. And he is no
slouch when it comes to judiciary issues. Would you call on him tonight to
lead an opposition to the confirmation of Senator Sessions?
MEEKS: Well, absolutely. And I think definitely that the senators will
ask some very tough questions. They can`t just, you know, this is not
going to be a cakewalk because he is a colleague. There is going to be
some crucial questions that are asked. They have got to be, and I would
say, that they have got to stand up and make sure that they are addressed.
We cannot allow just someone to walk in who clearly by his decisions, I
think, go against the very nature of what attorney general should do. You
know, when you talk about voting rights, when you talk about civil rights,
when we talking about criminal justice reform, you know. The cameras did
not lie when you spike (ph), particularly when you look that attacks on
African-Americans and others. And we`re talking about making sure that
there is a review of certain police departments. That`s what they`re
doing. So we don`t need all that reversed. I think all of America wants
to come back to make sure we have a real criminal justice system.
MELBER: All right, congressman Gregory Meeks, thank you for joining me.
Maria Teresa Kumar in Washington, thank you. Appreciate it.
KUMAR: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Now coming up, Donald Trump loves bragging that he always wins in
court, but he didn`t win today. In fact, he settled for a whopping $25
million. We are going to explain also Donald Trump`s pick to run the CIA
and wants to tear up the Iran nuclear deal and Trump`s choice for the NSA
being scrutinize for his ties to Russia. And yes, there is more. Stay
MELBER: The southern poverty law center says there have been more than 430
reports of hate crimes since the election alone, and many are crimes that
are involve vandalism. Tonight we can tell you, the FBI is investigating
vandalism in a park in Brooklyn that is dedicated to (INAUDIBLE) who died
in 2012. He, of course, was the famous member of the Beastie Boys. He was
also Jewish. The park was pre-painted with swastikas, and the words quote
“go Trump.” It is already being repainted. Tonight, we will follow up on
this story if there are any updates from that FBI investigations.
Now up next, as promised, Donald Trump used to say he never settled
lawsuits against him, but Trump didn`t win in court today. He settled one
of the many cases against him, a several of them together, amounting to $25
million. We will have all of the story for you up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t like settling suiting, because when you settle lawsuits,
everybody sues you. It is a little business story. I have friends they
settled lawsuits and they can`t understand why they are always sued. I
don`t settle lawsuits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I don`t settle lawsuits. Donald Trump made that very clear during
the campaign, but yes, we have breaking news for you tonight this Friday.
He folded. And he didn`t just settled, he settled big time agreeing to pay
$25 million. This is for three lawsuits over Trump University customers
who have said he defrauded them. Trump University was a business that
offered business advice which went out of business.
Now, Trump defended it vehemently during the campaign. He said it had a 98
percent approval rating, tweeting I could have settled but won`t out of
principle. The suits that he settled alleged that the courses didn`t
deliver the real estate expertise as advertise, that he abused people of
using pressured sales tactics and also that Trump violated state laws
defining the requirements to be a university.
Now Trump will be paying those people back some of their money. And while
the settlement agreement states that Trump is not technically admitting any
wrongdoing, it does also requires him it to pay a penalty to New York for
violating those laws. The New York attorney general explained today that
Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the state of New York for
violating state education laws. People can judge for themselves whether
violating education laws actually does amount to wrongdoing.
Joining me now, Julian Epstein. He was the chief minority counsel for the
house Judiciary Committee and also majority staff director of the house
government operations committee and is a fitting lawyer to discuss this
legal story. Good Friday evening to you.
JULIAN EPSTEIN (D), FORMER COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Good
MELBER: Let me start with this, the Trump perspective. This is what they
said about today`s settlement, which again as I have said $25 million, not
nothing in a case. They said while we have no doubt Trump University would
have prevailed at trial based on the merits, resolution of these matters
allows president-elect Trump to devote focus his full attention to the
important issues facing our great nation.
Regardless on your views of Donald Trump or even Trump University, I just
want your legal expertise of whether people usually pay out $25 million if
they think they would win the case at trial?
EPSTEIN: Generally not. This is obviously different because you have an
incoming president of the United States. And for a transition that has
handled so many matters so badly, you kind of have to give credit where
credit is due. This is the best-handled incident that you have seen the
Trump team execute on since the election.
That said, the evidence against Trump University was pretty compelling.
And it came mostly from his own employers, who were the so-called
professors, even though this didn`t never constituted a bona fide
university who basically said that they have provided students nothing more
than what is available on the internet. And they were coaxing them to kind
of run up their bills on their credit cards. And it was really a classic
fraud case. And anybody that looking at the information that was released
by the courts during the depot period would see that it`s a very, very
strong case against Donald Trump.
MELBER: Right. And you make the point, a fair point, that you can give
him credit for getting this off the table now. And that is good for a
transition. The flip side I think to that is politically, it may have also
been a good idea for them not to settle this during the campaign for $25
million, because it might have drawn attention to why this would be a hard
case to win. Other candidates did bring this up. It was a political
liability because Donald Trump ran in part by saying I will do to America
what I did in my business, and depending on where you sit politically, and
some people thought there was good or bad idea. Here was Marco Rubio on
this history during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: People borrowed money and they signed up
for this fake university, and these people owe all this money now, and they
got nothing in return for it, but you are willing to say whatever you have
to say to get them to give you their money.
TRUMP: We have a 98 percent approval rating, (INAUDIBLE). We have an A
from the better business bureau, and people like it. Many of the people
that are witness did tremendously well and made a lot of money.
RUBIO: That`s false.
TRUMP: By taking the course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is there anything to be gleaned about his approach to management
or governance from Trump view?
EPSTEIN: Well, it is a loaded question. Again, it`s a smart move to
settle the case because as we know from Clinton versus Jones, a civil case
can be prosecuted against a president.
EPSTEIN: But I think it does tell you a great deal about Donald Trump, the
person. Because as you pointed out, this was a very, very significant case
from a very kind of defiant position that he took during the campaign. And
it tells you a lot about Donald Trump. One of the biggest knocks on him is
that he has no core beliefs. He changed his position on abortion. He
changed his position on health care. He changed his position on the Iraq
war. He changed his position on whether he would settle lawsuits. He said
he never would before the election to show that he was this big, kind of
tough defiant guy. And nothing he ever did in business was beyond the -
everything he did was beyond reproached. And now a totally different
situation now that he is elected trying to avoid what will be become an
awful political embarrassment for him.
So again, yes, in the short term, a kind of a good political move for him,
but if you are a member of his political base, you have to ask yourself a
question, does this guy really believe in anything. I mean, the knock on
him again is he is always sold people down the river. He is a con man. He
never believes anything he says like he didn`t believe what he was saying
when he said he would never settle.
So I think it underscores that narrative about a guy who doesn`t mean what
he says. But even more importantly, one of the reasons he didn`t want to
settle this case, Ari, as you remember, was he said if I settle this case,
I`m going to have a handful of other cases and people making complains
against me. Well, guess what, he has a long list of people with a lot of
grievances. People, architects and vendors that he never paid. Women who
made harassment claims on him. All kinds of other civil cases that give
rise to civil litigation while he was in business and before he was running
for president. And guess what, now he is kind of, he`s kind of laid for
himself for (INAUDIBLE) in bed. He has kind of said, you know, if I settle
this case, I`m going to invite others in. Well, there is a long list of
people with a lot of grievances. So you are looking at a narrative here of
an incoming president who could be saddled with all kinds of bag, legal
baggage from his kind of his preexisting business relations through
extensive. And then you get in to all the conflicts of interest that –.
MELBER: I want to ask you before I let you go, and you mentioned this. I
mean, people on his side love that he is a fighter and they say that he had
a big, of course, public fight with the judge over this, making racist
attacks on Judge Curiel, now with the benefit of - you wonder what was the
point of all that. You are a fighter. You got this big fight with the
judge. You got all that to end up paying out $25 million anyway? That
seems like a lot of fighting without the result. But you mentioned the
other thing I want to ask you about which is people are calling the house
government oversight committee, asking for investigations and oversight on
the issue of the conflicts of interest. You used to work there. Briefly
your thoughts on the issue.
EPSTEIN: One word for you, Ari. Halliburton. Remember Dick Cheney`s
relationship with Halliburton and how Halliburton got him into a whole boat
load of trouble because of its involvement in the Iraq war. Well, guess
what, Donald Trump makes Halliburton look like a picnic. Donald Trump has
extensive business relationships in Russia, in Turkey, all throughout the
Middle East, and throughout Europe. And he is his own landlord with the
Trump hotel in Washington where the GSA is supposed to be tenant.
You can see endless, endless opportunities for conflicts of interest. And
they clearly haven`t done what they need to do in order to vet these issues
and protect the president. I think we are in for some really interesting
MELBER: Julian Epstein, thank you as always for joining us.
EPSTEIN: Air, thanks for having me.
MELBER: Up next, why was a former three-star general paid by Russia media
then see in by Vladimir Putin and why did Donald Trump pick him to be his
national security adviser? We have got questions and answers. Stay tuned.
MELBER: Donald Trump named Representative Mike Pompeo as his pick to lead
the CIA today. He is a three-term congressman, first elected in 2010 as a
member of the tea party, a vocal member of the house Benghazi committee and
currently sitting on the house intelligence committee. Yesterday,
congressman Pompeo tweeted, I look forward to rolling back this disastrous
deal with the world`s largest state sponsor of terrorism. President Obama
doubted that possibility several days after his meeting with Trump saying
this on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Iran is a good example of the gap I think between some of the
rhetoric in this town, not unique to the president-elect and the reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining us now is Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff for Leon
Panetta at the CIA and at the defense department as well Jonathan Alter,
MSNBC political analyst and a columnist at “the Daily Beast.”
Jerry, how about that point from the president? It`s all well and good to
have a peaceful transition of power. Everybody expects that. But he seems
to have gone further several times, giving an optimism about what he calls
reality setting in, that you have to accept the Iran deal, that`s not what
we are hearing from these folks.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO CIA DIRECTOR LEON PANETTA: Well,
look. I think many members of Congress, including congressman Pompeo have
been deeply skeptical of the Iran deal. But what is really confront him
when he goes to (INAUDIBLE) to be CIA director, and in 2008 during the
transition, I helped then former congressman Leon Panetta get ready himself
to become CIA director. I went with him to the agency. What`s going to
confront him is not really what`s happened in the past, but really what is
happening today on the ground in Syria, in Aleppo, with the Russians in
Ukraine, with Kim Jong-Un in North Korea.
These are real no kidding national security crises that are unfolding as we
speak. And they will unfold more to test the new president, to test the
president-elect and to test congressman Pompeo. And so, he is really got
to leave I think partisan politics behind and he is really going to focus
on the non-partisan business of being a tough intelligence advisors and a
president-elect running operations and being a voice of clarity on non-
partisan analytic focus in the oval office and in the situation room.
MELBER: Well, and Jonathan, to that point, if you want to be old-
fashioned, and things are changing, but if you want to be old-fashioned,
the position of CIA director is one of intelligence and verified
information, not one of policy-making.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He is supposed to be a
neutral broker within the vast intelligence community and to filter out a
lot of chaff and give the president the wheat. What he really needs to
know every day to make very, very tough decisions about hotspots around the
world. So it`s really not supposed to be a policy advocacy role.
So that tweet today is kind of alarming. Pompeo is a smart guy, was first
in his class at the military academy, Harvard law school. He is actually
fairly well-respected on Capitol Hill. But he also has this penchant for
going for the partisan jabs. So he did this on Benghazi. He was to the
right of the chairman, Trey Gowdy of the Benghazi committee, and on Iran.
What he is talking about, if he is successful, and he has to get past
Israeli intelligence, which supports this deal at this point, they do not
believe it is in the national security interest of Israel for this deal to
be blown up. But if Pompeo is successful in getting Donald Trump to roll
back this deal, we will be in serious jeopardy of having a war with Iran
during president Trump`s administration.
MELBER: One thing, to Jonathan`s point, though, you know, we have Donald
Trump here who ran on changing Washington and draining the swamp. And this
week, what we have learned is even in particularly apolitical jobs like CIA
and AG, he seems to have been able to find Republican politicians to fill
the role. It almost makes you wonder whether Donald Trump can`t be relied
on to stick to his promises. TBD.
But let me ask you about what Collin Powell reportedly said in private
emails that were hacked so we haven`t verified them ourselves, but Buzz
Feed saw them, in discussing Michael Flynn, the NSA pick here. He says
Flynn got fired as head of DIA. His replacement is a black marine three-
star. I asked why Flynn got fired, abusive with staff, didn`t listen,
worked against policy, bad management, he has been and was right wing nutty
ever since. Is that in your view common assessment from Republican
circles, that being Colin Powell?
BASH: That is the common view. I mean, he did have a good military
career. He was an intelligence officer at the right hand of general
Stanley McChrystal, doing important things in the fight against Al-Qaeda.
But his management skills I think his subordinates found lacking. And he
was not extended for a third year by the career professional leadership of
the director of national intelligence Jim Clapper at the time. And then
during the campaign I think he really went off and did some things that
were hyper-partisan. And frankly, I think probably even he thinks went too
far like saying like it is rational to fear all Muslims in a tweet from
last February. I mean, I don`t think even he believes that. He knows that
our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty and
tolerance. And that in fact, if we are going to win this war ultimately
and defend our country, we are going to have to confront the veer length
ideology of those who pervert Islam, not the entire faith. He has members
of Islamic faith on his own staff at the national Security Council now. He
has them in the intelligence committee. He has them at the department of
defense. They are part of a solution, not part of the problem. And I
think he should say that publicly.
ALTER: Well, I mean, you know, what is really alarming about this is you
now have Steve Bannon on the domestic side, Michael Flynn on the foreign
policy side, and you have, you know, a little bit of a trip to crazy town
right in there in the White House. And the problem is –
MELBER: Is that in a rural county?
ALTER: No, there are many –
MELBER: Any county.
ALTER: But, you know, I mean - no, definitely not necessarily rural. But,
you know, the point is that Trump, according to all of the managers and
executives who worked for him at the Trump organization over the years, he
listens to the last person he talked to.
MELBER: Right. I have read that.
ALTER: And they all say this. And often Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn
will be the last person he talks to before he makes a decision.
MELBER: Right. Flynn is going to have incredible access. He has some
experience, but much of it, according to the people who worked with him,
checkered as we are hearing from these reporting.
Jeremy Bash and Jonathan Alter, thank you both. Appreciate it.
As for Steve Bannon who Jonathan just mentioned, well he is speaking out
now for the first time inside Trump tower since his post. What he and
Donald Trump have in store for the next four years? In his own words,
MELBER: This week began with Donald Trump`s appointment as Steve Bannon as
a top White House strategist and it ended with his appointments of Jeff
Sessions for attorney general. If there was any doubt that Trump`s
campaign approach of division over unity would continue in governing that
doubt is officially over the division, it is here to say.
Now after several days of tough criticism with Democrats calling for
Bannon`s removal and objection to his alleged ties to the white nationalist
movement and signs of Bannon was quickly becoming a household name complete
with a south park cameo, Steve Bannon struck back today. He answered his
critics directly, telling the Hollywood reporter, I`m not a white
nationalist. I`m a nationalist. I`m an economic nationalist. And he
gives this description of what a Trump White House will look like quote
“like Andrew Jackson`s populism, we are going to build an entirely new
political movement. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the
Reagan revolution. Conservatives plus populist in an economic nationalist
Now does this so-called economic nationalism had any policy meet? Well, we
want to bring you Bannon`s words directly. He says yes, promising a fight
with Republicans over domestics spending. The conservatives are going to
go crazy, he says. I`m the guy pushing a trillion dollar infrastructure
plan with negative interest rates throughout the world. It`s the greatest
opportunity to rebuild everything, shipyards, ironworks, get them all
jacked up. We are just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it
Joining me now to see if it sticks, Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser
and national spokesman from moveon.org and Charlie Pierce from “Esquire.”
Charlie, first of all, there is all the rhetoric. There is whatever
economic nationalism means to different people. But at the end there,
there is the idea of a trillion dollars in domestic spending. Do you buy
it? Will this Congress?
CHARLIE PIERCE, ESQUIRE: No. Will I buy it? Yes. Will the Congress?
Absolutely not. I don`t know if, you know, Mr. Bannon has checked the
order of battle here in Washington recently, but it is Paul Ryan who gets
to decide what gets spent and what doesn`t get spent. And if Mr. Bannon
has a problem with that, he should take it up with James Madison.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MOVEON.ORG: Well, look. I mean, this – I agree with
Charlie. Look. I mean, we saw what Breitbart did to the Republican Party
and particular Paul Ryan for many years, which is, you know, really go
after the establishment, the Republican establishment.
Look. What he`s trying to do is clearly normalize white nationalism,
right, by saying I`m not a white nationalist. I`m just a national economic
MELBER: It`s not about race.
JEAN-PIERRE: Right. And that`s the fear that I think we are headed
towards with Steve Bannon. Clearly, the president, the candidacy of Donald
Trump was normalized. And now we are in the situation where the guy who is
whispering in his ear can potentially be normalized, right. He has no –
it`s not even that he has no experience, but we have to remember that the
white supremacists out there are celebrating him being in this position.
MELBER: Well, and he has a certain type of experience.
I mean, Charlie, he was a Goldman Sachs banker. He got Seinfeld royalties
from a deal, which is right in so much money among other things and he sees
his role as not reading poles, the president, but a much grander,
Let me read to you from a speech he gave to some people that were gathered
at the Vatican in 2014. He says to really be able not just stand with our
beliefs, our goal is to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity
that is starting. That we will completely eradicate everything we have
equipped (ph) over the last 2000, 2500 years. And he goes on to say, ask
yourself 500 years from today, what are they going to say about me?
I can tell you in Washington, people are usually talking about what the
headlines are going to be the next day, not the 500 year old arc.
PIERCE: All Right. So he is a Charles Martell (ph) coast player.
The problem is historically, and Karine touched on this. Historically in
America, almost every populist movement either dies or ends up with having
to use useful scapegoats most of the time racially. That certainly happen
when he talks about Andrew Jackson. A lot of the populism that fueled
Andrew Jackson was the protection of slave power, if not stealing a land
from the Indians.
Tom Watson, the great populist from Georgia, started out trying to get an
anti-lynching law passed and ended his career being one of the most ardent
segregationists who ever lived. And that`s what got him elected to the
Senate. I think if it was possible within the framework of the American
mythology, to have a genuine economic populist movement, Bernie Sanders
would be picking his cabinet right now.
MELBER: Well, I hear that. I want to read one other part of this
interview, because we believe in open dialog here. And he had some tough
words and criticism for the press and MSNBC. He says, look, the media
bubble is the ultimate symbol of what`s wrong with this country. It is
just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no f`ing idea what
is going on. IF the “New York Times” didn`t exist, CNN and MSNBC would be
a test pattern. That`s that empty screen thing. It`s a closed circle of
information from which Hillary Clinton got all her information and her
confidence. That was our opening. He says FOX News got it more wrong than
anybody. Rupert Murdoch is a globalist and never understood Trump.
First of all you have to love that he will take all comers. But what about
that point which some people do identify with? The idea that if you watch
television, including MSNBC in the weeks running up to the election, you
had an expectation of something that turned out to be false and wrong that
Hillary Clinton would win.
JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look. We are talking about someone who had
Breitbart, right? Who constantly put out things that were false and wrong
and hateful. It was a, you know, a dumpster fire for racism, bigotry,
sexism, you name it. So I mean, yes, it`s coming from the, he should know
what he`s talking about because he did it under this false news kind of
blog. So I think, so I think, so I think that`s where he is coming from,
because that`s what he does. It`s almost like projecting, I believe.
MELBER: Yes, that`s an interesting point. And that because his notion of
even the terminology he uses, media, he is not practicing journalism and he
is certainly not clear on how to access it.
Karine Jean-Pierre and Charlie Pierce, thank you both.
Now coming up, something related. Did fake news help Donald Trump win the
election? And more frightening, will fake news ensure Donald Trump cannot
fail as president. He may not deliver on his promises, but fake news sites
could make sure people never realize it. That straight ahead.
MELBER: Some more news tonight on who is in and out of the Trump
administration. Mike Huckabee met with Donald Trump today. And tonight he
told FOX News what role they discussed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it a cabinet position? Was it an advisory
MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both.
HUCKABEE: Primarily cabinet, but as to which agency, the reason that I
wouldn`t discuss it is because somebody is going to get that slot, and I
don`t want them to think they are number two. Heck I may have been number
four for all I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Well, he knows. The man who was defeated by Elizabeth Warren,
meanwhile, Scott Brown says he is on Trump`s potential cabinet list as
well, telling New England cable news, the president-elect called and I said
I`m under consideration. Nothing for certain. Said he will be in touch
next week, honored.
Now coming up in the final month before the election, more people are
reading fake news, sometimes on Facebook than real all news. Is president-
elect Trump`s right hand man Steve Bannon part of the problem? That`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In an age of social media where so many people are getting their
information in sound bites and snippets off their phones, if we can`t
discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the tenth or
12th time that he has denied being for the war in Iraq. We have it on
tape. The entire press corps has looked at it. It`s been debunked but it
never stops him from saying whatever he wants to say.
TRUMP: Has not been debunked.
CLINTON: You can go to Hillary Clinton.com and you can see it.
TRUMP: I was against the war in Iraq. It has not been debunked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Donald Trump lying right into the microphone about his
record opposing the Iraq war at the second presidential debate. There`s
nothing new about politicians lying, but by all accounts, brazen lying was
a central feature of Trump`s candidacy. When “Politifact” reviewed his
statements, they found over half of Trump`s statements that they analysts
were completely false. So that means on many key points, there are 50/50
odds that when Trump is speaking, he is lying. That Trump was operating in
a shifting environment that increasingly rewards lies, not just in terms of
political audience but in terms of market share.
New reports and studies are documenting a perverse feedback loop where
propaganda sources that re-enforce popular lies are rewarded with more
popularity and economic incentives online. Take a look at these headlines
which were all fake.
These were some of the most-shared stories on Facebook during the general
election. Sharing a story, as you probably know, indicates someone thinks
the story is probably true and important enough that other people should
read it. Most of these popular false stories were pro-Trump.
Take a look at this. Of the top 20 performing false election stories
identified in this analysis, all but three were overtly pro-Trump or anti-
Clinton. And that level of misinformation and biased re-enforcement was
helpful to Trump`s win. But note that was not always the explicit goal,
the people making this stuff. As scholar (INAUDIBLE) reports, many people
who wrote those fake stories are simply opportunists, including web writers
living abroad who quote “experimented with left-leaning or pro-Bernie
Sanders content but gave up when they found out it wasn`t as reliable a
source of income as pro-Trump content.” There`s money out there for giving
the people what they want, and many want to be deceived.
Joining me now, “New York times” contributing and opinion writer, Zeynep
Tufekci and Micah Sifry, an author of several books on the internet and
politics. Your thoughts.
ZEYNEP TUFEKCI, CONTRIBUTOR/OPINION WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what
I saw in the last election was pretty mind-boggling. Around May and June,
there was this huge spike in stories that were blatantly false. I don`t
mean opinions that I disagreed with. I mean headlines like the ones you
showed that Pope endorses Donald Trump, for example. Nothing of the sort
happened. If anything, they had as back about refugees. Or there were
stories from “Denver Guardian,” a newspaper that doesn`t exist, saying that
an FBI agent who doesn`t exist had leaked Hillary Clinton`s emails, which
didn`t happen, and that he had been killed in a murder/suicide, which, of
course, since he didn`t exist hadn`t happened and implicating Hillary
Clinton in this.
Such stories weren`t just some fringe things and marginal websites nobody
saw. Instead, through Facebook, they were shared, like the Pope endorses
Trump story a million times. Given that the average person on Facebook has
about 100, 150 friends, potentially tens of millions of views.
The Hillary Clinton implying killed the FBI agent, half a million shares,
again, millions of people. There were so many stories I think I saw maybe
a dozen go viral almost every day. And as Buzz Feed`s analysis found, this
wasn`t always just partisans, it was a lot of times in Buzz Feed`s
analysis, they found Macedonian teenagers who were like, wow, you know,
every click we have gives us a portion of percent. And they were just
MELBER: Right. They weren`t necessarily trying to alter the election
results. They just found there was a market for this. They were going to
feed this market. And again, that study found that market was much greater
demand, much more interest in sharing false information by the Trump
Micah, you have argued that there is something different about this
happening when the candidate might be the encourager, the source as oppose
to the government.
MICAH SIFRY, AUTHOR: Well, I think the issue now is that we have a
president-elect who, through his historic use of twitter every day is
himself a source of fake news. Most recently, you know, he is tweeting
that he supposedly caused Ford Motors not to move a plant in Kentucky to
Mexico, which is, you know, a bogus story, but it`s already been spread and
retweeted and even Reuters picked it up. And, you know, when a candidate
does it, it can be fake. When the government is doing it, and he is soon
going to be the government, we call that propaganda.
But there`s one other point that I want to make here. I think people need
understand that with all this attention to fake news, we have to also
understand what Trump has been doing since the election with all of his
tweets, attacking the “New York Times.” It seems weird, right? That he is
going after them every day and trying to undermine their credibility. And
I think that it isn`t just because he is obsessed with the “New York
Times.” But it`s also because he understands that the “New York Times” is
one of our remaining sources of credible real news. And if Trump manages
to undermine that, it will make him that, it will make it that much easier
for him to do whatever he wants. And it`s even more important now to
understand why we need, people care about this issue. They need to support
institutions that actually provide real news.
MELBER: Right. And that he wants to inoculate their efforts, the fact
checking before they even begin.
MELBER: We are an out of time.
Micah and Zeynep, thank you for joining us –.
MELBER: I`m Ari Melber. You have been watching THE LAST WORD with
And up next is “ALL-IN” with Chris Hayes.
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